SOUTH-CENTRAL-KENTUCKY-L ArchivesArchiver > SOUTH-CENTRAL-KENTUCKY > 1998-05 > 0895847487
From: Sandi Gorin <>
Subject: THE SAGA OF COE RIDGE CONTINUED - CUMBERLAND CO.
Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 09:31:27 -0500
This is the continuation of the black settlement in Cumberland Co known as
Coe Ridge, taken from a 1940 series in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
In the time of growth and increase, and the wearing out and eroding of the
soil in the clearings, the COE people needed a new source of income. They
found it in moonshining; and for a time this new industry brought
prosperity heretofore unknown to them. Moonshining brought them other
things too. New clothes, new toys, new tools and new problems.
Cars were needed for the distribution of their product, and contracts were
necessary amongst the bootleggers in Burkesville, Tompkinsville, Columbia
and Glasgow, in Kentucky and in Celina, Tenn., to mention a few towns in
the vicinity. (The name Celina was spelled Salina by the COE people.) The
Zeke Town boys learned to drive quickly. Their skill never overshadowed
their enthusiasm and nothing overshadowed the thrill of "Keepin' yore foot
in the carbrat'r." So crack-ups were the order of the day, and the logging
roads into Coe Ridge helped to condition the cars for those smashes by
scraping off a part here, a fender there, nudging a "stob" into a tire,
curling a tie-rod and generally shaking the whole auto to pieces. By the
time a car negotiated a jumping, dust-stirring trip into the woods and
groaned out again under the weight of 50 gallons of white lightning, it was
generally "fitten to use bailin' wire on." So from the first mania of motor
transportation unto this day, the roads in the vicinity are marked with
wheel-less, burned and overturned skeletons of cars whose vintage would tax
the talents of an aged mechanic.
During this period of expansion into the liquor field, new blood was
introducted into the settlement. Outsiders, black and white, came to Coe
Ridge for liquor; and often as not, the visitors spent a night, a weekend
or a week. There were sold wild times in Coe Town in those days - and nights.
In this era, with the new industry and its need for distribution, with the
fast driving, the wrecks and the unsavory visitors, the Coe Ridgers began
to grow a reputation they may not have deserved so richly when they got it.
Now they earned it with enthusiasm. From liquor to violence, robbery and
sudden death. And trouble came in the form of righteous indignation.
Although violence and sudden death were never strangers to Cumberland
County, there has always been (and still is) a substantial majority of
good, solid, hard-headed, law-abiding citizens who will not countenance law
violation if they can prevent it. In some other communities the people may
be just as good, just as religious, but maybe not so hard-headed! So, they
say, "There's nothing you can do about it!" But not the Cumberland County
people! They are just hard-headed enough to believe that something can be
done about it. The Coe Ridge situation became one of the elements in
politics. The stubborn insistence that "something can be done about it" has
resulted in the election of honest, hard-working law-enforcement officers
every four years for a generation, and this has contributed to the turn
toward depopulation of the Ridge.
There was a time when it was said that an officer didn't dare to venture
out into Zeke Town vicinity, and stories persist of officers who wre "run
off" when attempting to arrest some of the COE people. From the present
members of the colony can be heard stories of raids since prohibition days
when the officers came armed with "high power" rifles and shotguns; but the
officers came, and that was bad.
To be continued - Sandi
Sandi Gorin - 205 Clements Ave., Glasgow, KY 42141-3409
(502)651-9114 or - Kentucky Colonel
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